ORACLES OF NOSTRADAMUS - Louis XVI
WE enter now upon the lamentable period comprised in the Reign of Louis XVI.--a period whose only parallel in history is the false and Illegal trial of Charles I. of England; the perfectibility of man being evinced only by the increased savagery and augmented moral turpitude exhibited at the later period. The first quatrain that has been adduced as pertaining to this period in the Centuries of Nostradamus is that of:
Century I.--Quatrain 57. [I. 173.]
By reason of great discord the earth shall quake.
Revolt destroys the old order and lifts its head to heaven.
The [King's] mouth will swim in its own blood,
And his front, anointed with milk and honey, roll upon the sod.
Tremblement de terre is earthquake, and from the time of Virgil, and much earlier than that, has been always taken to forebode convulsions of the State; disturbance of all things rooted and firm, and typifying upheavals of the populace.
[paragraph continues] That it is the King's mouth shall swim in blood is shown unmistakably by the fourth line that follows, where the face is said to be anointed with the milk and honey of the holy ampulla. The Kings of France were crowned at Reims with the oil that was kept there in la sainte ampoule for this purpose. The milk and honey is merely a figurative expression; oil and wine, milk and honey, equally represent the fatness of the land.
Upon this quatrain, about the meaning of which he manifestly could know nothing, Garencières naively says: "The words and sense are plain, and I cannot believe there is any great mystery hidden under these words." Words put a slight upon men's minds to think they understand what they see written; from this it is clear that you may understand the words, and yet comprehend nothing from understanding them. Orators please take note.
Century III.--Quatrain 59. [Bouys, 55.]
Barbare empire par le tiers usurpé.
La plus grand part dc son sang mettra à mort.
Par mort sénile par lui le quart frappé;
De peur que sang par le sang ne soit mort.
The rude empire is usurped by the third estate (tiers état).
It will put to death the greatest part of his [the Royal] family.
A quarter [of the kingdom] is struck with senile death;
For fear of retribution of death, from children of those murdered.
This must relate to 1789, as in no country but in France had the third estate usurped exclusive power to itself. Since that period the House of Commons in England has pursued the same lines, in a more covert, gradual, and, as some would say, lawful manner. In the Lyons edition, 1558, the second line reads mettra à mort, which makes better sense,
though it spoils the rhythm, unless the a in mettra may suffer elision in old French prosody--a question I lack knowledge to determine. The quarter being destroyed, as old age withers a man, is to be understood analogically of the lives of citizens removed by terror, or emigration, or spoliation of property, or revolutionary taxation, or by imprisonment.
Bouys tells us that sang is to be understood in Nostradamus of children, family, relatives, so that que sang par le sang here would mean, lest the families of the injured should rise against the assassins of their flesh and blood. Such a reaction actually took place in the South, in spite of all the truculent precautions taken. The quatrains exhibit no kind of method or chronological order in their arrangement. So that, out of the thousand and more that exist of them, the commentator must hunt at large until he comes upon something salient that enables him to attach the passage to some event, when often he will be led to the most extraordinary results. The usurpation by the tiers êtat here, with all but the very phrase supplied, and with the results that would follow from the usurpation so unmistakably set forth, fixes the pertinency of the quatrain almost as perfectly as if it had been headed French Revolution. Yet a reader of less observance and care than is requisite to stay the attention which leads to discovery, might readily pass it over as jargon and mere nonsense. But, once you have deciphered the quaint phrases and their connection, you cannot doubt the meaning, nor the author's vivid gift of expression in conveying ideas, with a terseness more than Tacitean, if less artistic. You discover that Nostradamus can hint in a phrase of three words what would require a long paragraph to make it explicit in an ordinary way. This is truly the language
of prophecy. It becomes legible in the light of the event it prefigures, as characters written in milk upon paper become visible at the fire, or when placed in the hot light of the sun.
Century I.--Quatrain 36. [Bouys, 56.]
Tard le monarque se viendra repentir,
De n'avoir mis à mort son adversaire;
Mais viendra bien à plus haut consentir,
(à ce) Que tout son sang par mort fera défaire.
The monarch shall too late repent
That he hath not put to death his adversary;
But he will have to permit later on,
That all his family shall suffer for it by death.
Taking this to be the meaning, it is clear that the adversary is the Duke of Orleans,--that centre of all plotting and intrigue against Louis,--who had so forgotten himself as, at a public bed of justice, in 1788, to shake his fist in the King's fact with a most threatening expression of countenance. For this he was only sent into exile when he ought to have suffered death. In the last line sang again stands for family and relatives. This could scarcely be plainer if the names were given; but, had Nostradamus here deviated from the secret idiom of prophetic language, he would have prevented the accomplishment of what he was asserting. Things like this may be happened on by chance, if you choose to say so, but the theory reels under the constant repetition of such chances. Men whose names are prominently before the world can hardly be introduced into prophecy. But we shall see shortly that Nostradamus is able to assign names with precision where the individuals are of a lesser rank, and that their names may so pass unobserved until history has recorded them with her iron pen.
Century IX.--Quatrain 20. (June 20, 1791.) [I. 174.]
De nuict viendra par le forest de Reines,
Deux pars, vaultorte, Herne la pierre blanche,
Le moyne noir en gris dcdans Varennes:
Esleu Cap. cause tempeste, feu, sang, tranche.
Translation. [II. P., I. 174.]
By night shall come through the forest of Reines
Two parts, face about, the Queen a white stone,
The black monk in gray within Varennes.
Chosen Cap. causes tempest, fire, blood, slice.
In the translation of this, Garencières leaves the two words vaultorte Herne as in the original French, and does not attempt the translation. He also mistakes Reines for Rennes, the chief town in Little Brittany. He evidently has no conception whatever of the meaning of the quatrain. Bouys and Le Pelletier differ on minor points in rendering these words, Forest, Le Pelletier reads, in Latin, as fores, gate, that is, by the Queen's gate, and he quotes Thiers to show ("Hist. Révol. Fran." i. 309) that the Queen made sure of a secret gate out of the Tuileries, by which they escaped. But Bouys takes it for the forest of Reines, which is on the road to Varennes. Deux pars is husband and wife; voltorte, or vaultorte, is a cross-road, or a divergent road; vaulx, a valley, and torte, tortuous, says Le Pelletier. One does not quite see how to educe cross road from this. Roquefort gives volt for face, and torte would be turned, which seems to me more likely, However, it stands for the road through St. Menehould, on the way to Montmédi. This, it seems, they were forced into by posting arrangements. Prudhomme ("Revol. de Paris," No. 102, p. 542) sets the divergence down to vacillation or change of orders. If that be the correct statement, then my etymology of face about for vaultorte fits it best. Herne is Reine, by metaplasm of h for i. It was permissible in anagrammatic writing to change one letter in a word, but not
more than one. The reader can refer for this to the "Dictionnaire de Trévoux," under Anagramme. The white stone stands for this royal or precious stone, the Queen, who was dressed in white. The King was dressed in grey. Prudhomme, in the work mentioned above (p. 554), says he wore a round hat, which hid his face, and had on an iron-grey coat (gris de fer), so he appeared like a Carmelite.
There are nearly fourteen octavo pages of small print (p. 411) of De Bouillé, which it might be well, to print, called "Details du voyage du roi et de la reine à Montmédy et leur arrestation à Varennes dans le Clairmontais, le 22 juin, 1791," full of interesting particulars.
"Mais on verra que les circonstances changèrent entièrement jusqu'au moment de l'exécution de son projet; et ce qui était possible au mois de janvier 1791, ne l'était plus au mois de juin."--"Mémoires du Marquis de Bouillé," p. 195, ed. 1821.
"Il [le roi] m'informait qu'il partirait, avec sa famille, dans une seule voiture qu'il ferait faire exprès. Dans la réponse que je fis au roi, je pris la liberté de lui représenter encore une fois que la route par Varennes offrait de grands inconvéniens, à cause des relais qu'il fallait y placer pour suppléer à la poste. . . . J'engageai donc Sa Majesté à prendre la route par Reims, ou celle de Flandre, en passant par Chimay, et en traversant ensuite les Ardennes pour se rendre à Montmédy. Je lui représentait les inconveniens de voyager avec la reine et ses enfants, dans une seule voiture faite exprès, et qui serait remarquée de tout le monde," etc.--"Mémoires du Marquis de Bouillé," p. 217.
This flight occurred on June 20, 1791. On the following day the National Assembly suspended Louis XVI. from his functions. On the 1st of September they passed another decree, that should the King surrender to the will of the people and become a Constitutional King he might do so. This he duly signed and attested on the 14th of the same month; so Capet fut esleu. The title of King of the French instead of the King of France, had been established since October
[paragraph continues] 16, 1789 ("Cyclopædia of Universal History"), which virtually was the same thing. But yet strictly it was not until after the flight that he became Esleu Cap. Madame Campan, in the "Mémoires de Marie-Antoinette," ii. 150, relates that the Queen's hair had become white in a single night and she had had a lock of her white hair mounted in a ring for the Princesse de Lamballe, inscribed Blanchis par le malheur. She had become la pierre plus blanche encore. Her dress was white, and her complexion too. The tranche stands for the slice, or couperet, of the guillotine. Bouys was amongst the first to explain this quatrain in print, and he says he owed the explanation to M. de Vaudeuil, of Nevers, who has written upon Nostradamus.
Century IX.--Quatrain 34. [I. 177.]
The husband alone afflicted will be mitred on his return. A conflict will take place at the Tuileries by five hundred men. One traitor will be titled--Narbon; and (the other) Saulce, grandfather oilman, will [hand him] over to the soldiery.
The harness broke at Montmirail, and detained them two hours (p. 247). The King showed himself at Chalons, and was recognized by the postmaster, who held his tongue.
[paragraph continues] Everything went wrong owing to the change of date and loss of time on the road. At St. Menehould he was recognized again, and Drouet the postmaster's son, rode on to Varennes to betray him.
On the 15th of June the Marquis de Bouillé received a letter from the King, saying his departure would be delayed till the 20th, at midnight; that he could not take the Marquis d'Agoult, recommended to him by Bouillé (as an "homme d'esprit, ferme et courageux, qui pent se montrer si les circonstances l'exigalent," p. 217), because Madame de Tourzel, the governess of the children, insisted on her right of place never to quit them; and this consideration carried the decision. As if the King could not have let them follow in another vehicle! Anything rather than be forced to show himself on the road as he did (p. 256).
How it all miscarried will be best understood by reading the whole of De Bouillé's account. His arrangements seem to have been masterly, like the noble soldier and statesman that he was; the King's arrangements vacillating, foolish, and even perverse. In this account Monsieur Saulce is not seen at all.
This is to be filled in as follows. Louis XVI. alone, without his wife, will suffer the disgrace of being crowned with the red cap of Liberty, called the Phrygian bonnet or mitre, from its being the headdress of the priests of Mithras. The five hundred Marseillais led the attack upon the Tuileries, a palace begun by Catherine de Medici (1564) on the site of the tile-kilns (le thuille), and not in existence when Nostradamus wrote this (1555). The Count de Narbonne, Minister of War, was of the noblesse, and Saulce, father, son, and grandson, were chandlers and grocers, or oilmen, of Varennes. The father was Procureur-syndic of his commune. These oilmen betrayed him to the populace, and he
was arrested per custodes. These sneaks stand as typical of representative traitors of the two classes of noblesse and bourgoisie paying cowardly court to the prolétaire class.
The Madame Campan before alluded to (ii. 158) relates that their Majesties alighted at the grocery shop of the Mayor of Varennes, Saulce; and he could have saved the King. The Queen was seated in the shop between two high-piled stacks of candles, and was talking to Madame Saulce.
The Gazette Nationale, June 25, 1791, reporting what took place in the Assembly the night before, announces that M. Martinet, in addressing the House, described Saulce's conduct as wise and heroic, replying as he did to the promises and caresses of the King and Queen, "J'aime mon roi; mais je resterai fidèle à ma patrie." The result of his heroism was that two months later on the Assembly voted him twenty thousand livres as the reward of his exalted vertue citoyenne. Whether, in the scramble that so soon followed, he ever received the wasteful and ridiculous Judas-gift there is nothing to show; but the bulletin recording the vote of these new-fledged statesmen, liberal of money not their own, still exists. We have here "un Brute Français," apeing the Roman, who loved César well, but blood better.
Thiers' account of the attack upon the Tuileries, June 20, 1792 ("Révol. Fran.," ii. 152), furnishes a pathetic picture of the afflicted King (marri mitré) of the red nightcap, in which he was day-dreaming. The palace was evacuated at about seven in the evening by the populace, which had effected its entry by main force; but, when the crowd had Dow withdrawn peaceably and in good order, the King, Queen, her sister, and the children, all met together, shedding a torrent of tears. The King seemed stunned by what had taken place; the red cap was still upon his head;
he now, for the first time for several hours, noticed it, and flung it aside with indignation.
As to the five hundred men named by our oracle, the historian of the French Revolution again comes to our aid (ii. p. 209), saying that Barbaroux had promised the Jacobins the co-operation of his Marseillais, who were on the way to Paris. The project was to assemble at the Tuileries and depose the king (ii. p. 235). They arrived on June 30, 1792, and were five hundred men. Ils étaient cinq cents.
Those who care to see how Narbonne acted against the King, can refer to the "Histoire de la Révolution," by Bertrand de Molleville, for satisfaction.
This stands out certainly as one of the most startling of all the thousand quatrains of our strange seer. It will henceforth and to the end of time speak for itself without comment, if we merely enumerate the historic facts as here anticipated in four lines. The horror of the king at finding himself mitré. The god Mithras is depicted on coins in this very cap, and his priests made it their head-dress; further, it furnishes the lively etymology of the word mitre itself. It was for ages, before the French took it up, the received emblem of that frantic crime that has been called Liberty. I will not say the result of this is, as poetry, artistically beautiful; but, as a phrase of intense expression, it is so terse that at a stroke, beyond that of hydraulic power, it seems able to compress a truss of hay so as it may lie in a husk of beechmast. I do say, nevertheless, that, thus regarded, Dante and Shakespeare can hardly furnish between them three sentences of such compressed force; the matter in it seems to be condensed to adamant. Mari sera mitré, as it has been just explained, will be found, the more profoundly it is thought upon, to be an original miracle in phraseology. It is an actual and an awful prophecy in itself, but to devise
a phrase to so convey the idea by human speech to the human mind of another is miraculous. It may sleep for centuries, as this has done, for lack of interpretation; but, when duly interpreted it cannot be resisted; it storms the understanding; and, as a phrase, seems to be a miracle begotten expressly to become the vehicle in which to convey another miracle. This horror of the King mitred is one distinct forecast. The second point is his return to Paris. There is, thirdly, the conflict of the five hundred. Fourthly, the spot, the Tuileries,--at Nostradamus' time, a thing of thin air, where the tiles were still baking, fire-hot to roof houses with, whilst the pen was writing this. Here again, if it is not poetry, it performs the poet's function, which gives to airy nothing a local habitation and a name. Fifthly, comes a titled name-Narbonne. Sixthly, that of Saulce; and finally, the handing over to the custodians. Here are seven distinct prophecies of events historical: two of them, names of men yet to be born at a period two hundred years removed. And, behold, these seven facts are put before you in four lines!
There is a point of particular interest to be noted in. that first line. Bouys (p. 62) remarks that, first line though it be, it should be the last, as the mitre was the closing act of the entire drama; and he supposes that Nostradamus wanted to make the treachery most prominent to the mind of the reader. That is to talk like a chronologer. The first cause and the final are, in spiritual matters, one. The life and death of man are reduced to two points, and epitaphs give enough about most of the lives of mortal men when they chronicle the birth and death dates. "Alone he returned and was mitred." How, step by step, it all came about follows necessarily; and that is how Nostradamus puts it to us. If he had weighted himself with what science
calls method, he would have destroyed his own instinct; as science does, just as Saturn ate up the offspring of his proper loins. The soul that does this must grope to its results, but can never jump to them by prophecy.
Before we go to the next quatrain it may be instructive to note Garencières' treatment of the pregnant forecast we have just traversed. He translates thus:
"The separated husband shall wear a mitre,
Returning, battle, he shall go over the tyle,
By five hundred one dignified shall be betrayed,
Narbon and Salces shall have oil by the quintal."
"The verse signifieth, that some certain man who was married shall be parted from his wife, and shall attain to some great ecclesiastical dignity. The second verse is that, coming back from some place or enterprise, he shall be met and fought with, and compelled to escape over the tiles of a house. The third verse is that a man of great account shall be betrayed by five hundred of his men. And the last that, when these things shall come to pass, Narbon and Salces, which are two cities of Languedoc, shall reap and make a great deal of oil."
This shows some skill, but what an unintelligible total we reach. I merely set it down to prove to the sceptical, and those who incline to class Nostradamus authoritatively amongst impostors whose jargon is not worth the pains of interpreting, that they may look at this and learn from it two facts: First, that before the event forecast has happened, all the keys of interpretation are wanting, the prophecy looks like jargon, and is so for all practical purposes; but that, secondly, once it has happened, or as we may say kissed sunlight, the keys appear with it, the light and the understanding awaken together. There is light in potence or in posse now; but even then they will not unlock secrets,
if the keys remain in the hands of ignorant or scientific persons [or self-sufficient, which is nearly the same thing as scientific], or in the hands of romance-readers and lazy dullards. You will not unravel "the words of the wise and their dark sayings" by reading a quatrain once through. The interpreter must approach the work in a simple, unprejudiced manner; he must get light from history how he can,--from memoirs, letters, books,--and learn by the success and failure of past commentators. He must be content to work very hard all the while, and with little encouragement from others; and then at last he may so do something, that even his neighbours may allow his work to be,--according to the bent or waterpent of the particular mind of each,--some a discovery, some a revelation. He himself may probably feel that a supreme patience has had more to do with bringing the thing to pass than any other faculty that could easily be named. Things of the spirit must, of course, be spiritually discerned, and all talk about faculties when the individual soul is treated of must sound a little paradoxical. To divide the unique and indivisible unity of the soul into parts and pieces, betrays in the proposer himself perhaps some "want of parts." But from the earliest time until now, this has been the scientific way of treating the human understanding; so let us consider that it is right enough. The soul has almost always been cut into three, and then left to wriggle and wriggle, and at last to join itself together again, as best it can, like a worm in a garden. If this be according to Aristotle, let all Sorbonne profess it for right. What does it matter how we treat one thing, if only our method be perfectly scientific and in accordance with all the rest of the universal phenomena, and with a right interpretation of nature? What can it matter about the invisible, if only our eyes know how to take account of
the things that are seen; that is, of the only things truly subject to the cognizance of man?
Century IX.--Quatrain 92. [Bouys, 64.]
Le roi voudra en cité neufue entrer.
Par ennemis expugner l'on viendra.
Captif libère faux dire et perpétrer,
Roi dehors estre, loin d'ennemis tiendra.
The King would enter into the city.
(By enemies expelled, France will obtain it [or] they will arrive there;)
It will be false to say and reiterate that the captive is free,
[And] that the King who is out [of Paris] will keep aloof from enemies
M. le Pelletier does not touch this quatrain. M. Bouys gives his interpretation, which is not very convincing, and I thought of passing it by altogether. But the captif libère so links it with the journey to Varennes of the Royal family, that it seemed preferable to include it, and leave it to the reader to reject or accept it, as he might think fit. Another determining influence was from my noticing that the cité neuve, or Montmédi, which the King desired to reach, was not French when the quatrain was penned. The VIII., IX., and X. Centuries were not published with the first seven, but were issued at Lyons from the same press, namely that of Pierre Rigaud. Moreri states that Nostradamus felt encouraged by the reception accorded to the seven Centuries to publish three more (i.e. VIII., IX., and X.), in 1558. There is a copy now in the Bibliothèque Royale, to which the authorities give the date of 1558. Pierre Rigaud's name appears on the title, but no date, which is remarkable, as the first volume of 1555 has this imprint: "Ce present livre a été achevé d'imprimer le IIIIe lour de may MDLV," giving a date as if for a nativity. M. le Pelletier demurs to the accuracy of the pretended date, and thinks it must belong to
the edition of 1566, by Pierre Rigaud. if so, these three Centuries scarcely appeared in the lifetime of Nostradamus, though they are dedicated to his patron, Henry II.,--who died in 1559,--in an elaborate and interesting epistle dedicatory. In opening this, Nostradamus says he has long been in doubt as to whom he should devote (consacrer) these three Centuries, but at last took courage to lay it at the feet of royalty. Now, the edition of 1566 particularly states that the prophecies n'ont encore jamais esté imprimées. One cannot read the Dedicatory Epistle without feeling sure it was written for the eye of the King, and therefore at least as early as 1558, but probably earlier by a year or two. I therefore assume that he presented them to the King in a fair manuscript, and that having done that he remained content, and that the family at his death, finding the original manuscript, put it in Rigaud's hands to be printed.
My reason for thus inquiring into the dates is this: that the investigation makes it extremely likely the above quatrain was written before 1557, the year in which Montmédi was taken by France, and, if so, it explains the line that I have thrown into a parenthesis in a manner in which it has never been interpreted before. Expugner is not French now; expugnable is all that now remains of it in the language. So that
Par ennemis expugner l'on viendra
may, I think, be regarded as a parenthetic explanation referring to the cité neuve, which was not yet French territory, though on the point of becoming so,--l'on viendra par ennemies expugner, by expulsion of the enemy, in 1557. If this rendering be thought valid, it furnishes one reason the more for explaining this quatrain as one of the series belonging to the Revolutionary epoch, and one more re deemed from the maze of Nostradamus.
It would appear from Bouys, though he does not produce his historical authorities, that immediately the King escaped, France was flooded with announcements that the captive was free, and had their consent to hold himself aloof--loin d'ennemis tiendra. If this be established, it becomes certain that we can in the main determine this quatrain accurately. ("Histoire de la Révolution, par deux amis de la Liberté," in 7 vols., vol. vii. p. 126.)
Century VIII.--Quatrain 87. [I. 179.]
Mort conspirée viendra en plein effect,
Charge donnée et voyage de mort:
Esleu, créé, receu par siens, deffait.
Sang d'innocent devant soy par 1 remort.
Death hatched by treason will take its full effect,
A charge imposed, voyage made to death.
Elected, created, received by his own, and undone by them.
The blood of Innocency (rises) before them in remorse (eternal).
Bouys thinks by the last line Nostradamus intended to convey, that the King felt poignant grief at the innocent victims his overthrow would leave without protection to the tender mercies of the States-General. The other is better, connecting it, as it does, with that case analogous, where the mob cursed themselves out of their own mouth, and said "His blood be upon us, and on our children" (Matt. xxvii. 25).
Century X.--Quatrain 43. [I. 180.]
Too much of good fortune, a too lax Royalty,
That makes and unmakes [appointments] sudden, hasty, negligent,
Lightly believes his loyal Consort false,
And bids good nature lead the way to death.
This is a picture to the life of the fat-making King Louis Seize. The brush of a Velasquez, as it cannot paint the moral, could hardly so well place him before the eye, as in life. He is no picture well-framed, hanging for inspection in a gallery of pictures, but flesh and blood like one's self alive, and moving with us in the gallery a spectator and observer like ourselves. We have here Louis XVI. before us in the flesh.
"He makes and unmakes appointments; yes, indeed." In a little more than eighteen years, sixty-seven ministers take office and relinquish it. Here they are alphabetically, as Bouys enumerates them. Amelot, Barentin, Bertrand de Molleville, Boyne, Breteuil, Brieune, Brogli, Beaulieu, Cahier de Gerville, Calonne, Castries, Champion de Cicé, Clavières, Chambonas, Clugny, Dabancourt, Danton, de Grave, Delessart, de Crosne, de Joly, d'Ormesson, Dabouchage, Dumourier, Duportail, Duport-Dutertre, Duranton, Foulon, Fourgueux, Fleurierès, Joly de Flemy, Lacoste, la Galaisières, Lailliac, la Jarre, la Luzerne, Lamoignon, Lambert, Laporte, Latour-Dupin, Lenoir, Liancourt, Leroux, Malesherbes, Maurepas, Miromeuil, Montmorin, Montbarrey, Mourgues, Narbonne, Necker, Pastoret, Puységur, Roland, Sartines, Ségur, Servan, Saint-Germain, Saint-Priest, Sainte-Croix, Taboureau, Tarbe, Terrier-Monceil, Thevenard, Turgot, Vergennes, Villedeuil. Several of these served twice, and Necker was in three times; so that the number of ministries in the time mentioned is seventy-two
[paragraph continues] --a thing not to be paralleled in history as a course of doing and undoing, of fais and deffais.
His temper was ungovernable and sudden, extending even to rough bathos, but was soon over. Maurepas always said, you must let the King have his first fling of humour out, and then he will soon recover. Secondly, his negligence let everything drift, finance included, till ruin brought collapse. You might think his economists had drawn their singular axiom for statesmenship, Laissez faire, from the example of their royal master. He fell at once into the intrigue of the diamond necklace belonging to Marie Antoinette, which was conveyed by the Countess of La Motte to the Cardinal de Rohan. Report runs that he even placed his wife under arrest in her own chamber for several days. "Lui mis à mort par sa bénévolence" displays a most wonderful forecast, and it is open to read it now LOUIS mis à mort.
Century VI.--Quatrain 92. [I. 182.]
The prince of very comely beauty (shall be)
Led to the head, and then betrayed to a second (place).
The city of the sword, with powder-torch, burns
The head of the King, hated on account of his illegal murder.
The edition of 1558 gives the reading as above, but the line does not scan; it wants two syllables. Bouys, without comment, reads Prince sera; Le Pelletier understands menée
as a synonym for intrigues. But I should read it rather as a misprint for méné. The city of the sword is a graphic name for Paris, where the guillotine was first erected on September 25, 1792, having been perfected by Guillotin, the doctor, whose name was given to it. Roquefort gives the word adusté as brûlé; but Nostradamus uses it as a verb, aduster, in the third person of the present indicative. Paris burnt the king's head with a powder-torch, or burning powder, that is to say with quicklime; and, as having done him wrong, the people hate him, and wish to obliterate the traces of the murder perpetrated.
The body and head of the King were placed in a basket of wicker-work, and carried, according to De Montgaillard ("Histoire de France," iii. p. 415. janvier, 1793 1) to the cemetery of the Madeleine, and thrown into a trench twelve feet deep, which had been spread with quicklime; more was thrown in upon the top of the body, so that decomposition would follow instantly. When the grave was reopened some twenty-four years after, to bestow a more decent burial on the relics, nothing remained but a few fragments of calcined bone.
Garencières reads Princesse de beauté tant venuste, which will not scan any better than the line of the edition of 1558; but he translates au chef menée, I find, as "shall be brought to the general," and the feminine termination is then right. This helps to confirm my rendering above. His annotation says that the only difficulty about the quatrain is as to what city is meant. As, however, he suggests no historical allusion whatever, he leaves every difficulty unsolved.
I think that most readers will be inclined to allow that this is a very extraordinary forecast, and that La cité au glaive as a name for Paris, and what has been perpetrated there, is both poetic and terrific in a very high degree--a sobriquet that, once heard, is likely to cling in the memory for ever. To devise epithets of this simplicity and force constitutes an author at once master of utterance; no matter what may be the shortcomings of the adjacent text. But, when you find these startling felicities perpetually recurring to illustrate facts historical,--facts that will not come into mortal ken for centuries after the death of the writer,--stiff, indeed, must be the reader's neck if he cannot bow it a little, as to a man of God passing by; or, if he would rather have it so, to the occasional divinity shining through man's nature, that will not, cannot wholly die when death has done its worst. From Hecla to the tropics all rational creatures should rejoice at such a fact. What is the new world of Columbus to this? Why, nothing but a new hemisphere of dirt. A spirit, that can read time future, must be a spirit whose habitation is Eternity. It is this hope kindles as we decipher, in the stillness of night, rune upon strange rune of the oracular sage of Salon.
Century X.--Quatrain 17. [I. 184.]
La Royne Ergaste 1 voyant sa fille blesme
Par un regret dans l'estomach enclos:
Cris lamentables seront lors d'Angolesme,
Et an germain mariage forclos.
The stranger Queen, seeing her daughter fading
By reason of the deep regret she endured inwardly:
The cries of Angoulême will be lamentable,
And the marriage with her cousin-germain foreclosed.
The Princess did marry the Duc d'Angoulême in 1799, but there was no issue,--mariage forclos. The Queen wished to marry her daughter to a German Prince: hence all the grief. The Abbé Torné-Chavigny ('L'Histoire prédite et jugée par Nostradamus," ii. 28) had the merit, M. le Pelletier says, of this learned interpretation. I cannot quite see this, as M. Bouys gave the same interpretation as far back as 1806, though with a particularity a little less minute. The prophecy thus unravelled is the more wonderful, as the event seems so little worth recording. There is the same exactitude and precision shown as where a kingdom is at stake.
Century IX.--Quatrain 77. [I. 185.]
Pierre Rigaud's edition reads conjurera for convicra, and that, at least, makes the line scan, which convicra does not. Bouys says that some ancient editions read conviera, commitari per viam, and then it would mean to arrange the funeral cortège of the King. I think conjurera the best reading, for that might be taken to mean that they condemned the King by jurors, or jury, as the Queen was in the next line.
The assembly will condemn the King taken,
[And] the Queen taken to death by jurors sworn by lot;
They will deny life to the Dauphin (à Royne fils),
And the prostitute at the fort will partake of the same fate.
Upon the word jurés, in the second line, M. le Pelletier remarks that the Convention, erecting itself into a supreme court of justice, proceeded to condemn the King to death. But the judgment upon Marie-Antoinette was passed by the Tribunal révolutionnaire, newly set up, which proceeded by jurors chosen by lot, jurés à sort. He further says that this jury is an institution borrowed from England, and he erroneously fancies that it had been first introduced into England at the Revolution, and had no existence there, even by name, during the lifetime of Nostradamus. This shows how little a Frenchman, when even well read, cares about English institutions. Pettingal almost proves that the Roman judices, and Greek δικασταί were jurors. There has been great and profitless dispute, as to whether the Anglo-Saxons had juries, or whether they came in at the Conquest. If they did it would be strange, for they died out in Normandy. If the practice be Roman, it would have prevailed in England as in Normandy, both having been under Roman law forms. Coke, Blackstone, and many others, confidently maintain its existence here prior to the Conquest. If Anglo-Saxon it would still be Roman. Were it Scandinavian in origin, or were it Teutonic, it would equally have prevailed here before the Conquest. So that the whole discussion has an interest merely archæological; and leaves the trial by jury, no matter what its origin, a thing of immemorial usage in these islands. You might as well try, by chemical analysis, to ascertain when oxygen first entered as a component part into the air men breathe. If you could settle the question it would be no use; whilst the time lost in discussing
it might otherwise be well employed. But the forensic usage was not so in France itself, as modern Frenchmen think, for in old Glossaries, like Roquefort's, you find jurie, not jurée: "Assise où l'on prononce sur le rapport des jurés."
They delivered the poor Dauphin to the cordonnier Simon, with orders to let him die slowly. The inhuman villains seem to have felt they could not condemn a child to public execution; so they give orders to a murderer to make away with him by ill usage and starvation, a process that would have rendered the guillotine welcome and a boon.
The last line admits of three interpretations. M. le Pelletier takes the pellix to stand for the National Convention itself, saying that it had prostituted justice in condemning an innocent prince over whom it had no jurisdiction. But clearly it had no jurisdiction over the King or Queen. He then takes the fort to be the Conciergerie, to which it consigned its own members, consorts, as an introduction to the scaffold. This is very striking, but the quatrain does not appear to me to threaten members of the Assembly at all. The unity of conception is best maintained by limiting its meaning to the fate of Royalty; and Bouys places an excellent and forcible interpretation upon it without breaking the unity of purpose. He says that it relates to the Dubarri, the King's courtesan, and that the fort is her palace of Luciennes, which had anciently been a strong place or fort. This is good, if the Chateau de Luciennes bears it out; but the fort may so easily be sort with the old s type, which is scarcely distinguishable from an f, that I think we might very well substitute it. We should then construe the last line
"And [consign] the prostitute to the fate of the Queen consort."
This interpretation requires less force to be employed upon the line, and less explanation than any of the others.
The forms of the s and ƒ are nearly identical. The reading that brings simplicity with it, and removes stumbling-blocks out of the way, usually proves the safest and the best. Here we remove the complication introduced by the word fort, which otherwise requires explanation, and it runs: The courtesan shares a like fate with the Queen. It is now for the reader to select the best.
Sixaine 55. [I. 186.}
Un peu devant ou après très-grand' dame,
Son ame au ciel, et son corps soubs la lame,
De plusieurs gens regrettée sera,
Tous ses parens seront en grand' tristesse,
Pleurs et souspirs d'une dame en jeunesse,
Et à deux Grands la deuil delaissera.
A little before or after a very great lady,
The soul [of Madame Elizabeth shall rise] to heaven, her body under the blade,
She will be grieved for by many persons;
All her family connections will be cast into deep sorrow,
One lady very young [Duchesse d'Angoulême will shed] tears and sighs,
And two great ones will be depressed with mourning.
This can be mistaken for no one but Madame Elizabeth, the sister of Louis XVI., her niece, the Duchess d'Angoulême, and the two brothers of Madame Elizabeth, the count of Provence and the Count of Artois. This is not one of the very striking stanzas, but the forecast is still notable, and occupies its position very well as one in a considerable series.
Century I.--Quatrain 58. [I. 187.]
The belly cut shall spring again with two heads
And four arms: Aquiloye shall live several years,
In great force (entiers) what (jour qui) time he holds.
Fossen, Turin, Ferrara shall fall under his domination (suivra chef).
This is a very crabbed, but very wonderful quatrain.
The elder branch of the Bourbons was cut short in the person of Marie-Antoinette (le ventre tranchée); shall spring up again in two heads, Louis XVIII. and Charles X. The two heads being crowned, the four lesser princes are called arms and uncrowned. They are counted thus: The Duc de Normandy, who died in the Temple, June 8,1795; the Due de Berri, assassinated January 13, 1820; the Duc d'Angoulême; and the Duc de Bordeaux, exiled August 16, 1830, who, though he had so many close chances, died without the crown,--an arm only, not a head, a hand tenaciously to the last holding to its white handkerchief as a flag. Zurich and Fossano stand, by synecdoche, for Piedmont, and Ferrara for the Papal States.
This brings us to the end of the Louis Seize series. Let us, before passing on to a fresh series, just give a glance at the ground we have traversed; and endeavour to estimate the value of the historical facts prefigured for us by Nostradamus in his book more than two hundred years before the earliest of them began to take effect upon the stage of actuality.
First, we beheld a section of the nation, the third estate, usurping the sole authority of government, and bringing down upon the whole the desolation that was witnessed in Europe in 1789. Then the intriguing Duc d'Orleans was portrayed, and the poor King was seen repenting that he had not, when insulted by him, publicly punished him by death. The next picture was that of the remarkable flight
to Varennes, in which the very travelling habits of the King and Queen, to their respective colours even, were minutely given, and the precise name hinted of the fallen Capet on the road,--fallen, though elected by the people, esleu cap. At the very last moment we are told their destination was changed by the King, where changing meant his destiny. He was then depicted as betrayed. He had run into the jaws of death, and the very names of the traitors, Narbonne and Saulce, were given; with the further detail, that he was taken back to Paris and mitred with the Phrygian cap, in the desecrated Tuileries, at the dictation of five hundred Marseillais. In another quatrain that journey is called a voyage of death, and in one line is laid before us all that happened to Louis the Unfortunate. He is elected, created king, received by his own people, and undone. To this succeeds that extraordinary picture of the King himself: his best friend could scarcely have portrayed the man so truly to us. Too prosperous at the outset, too good-natured a royalty, sudden in temper, yet dilatory in act, making and unmaking ministries quarterly, and finally done to death by his own benevolence. We then have a stanza devoted to him. We see him as a beautiful youth made chief, then deposed, and his head rolling from the scaffold in the City of the Glave, even to his burial in quicklime at the Madelaine, a procedure so unheard of in the case of kings. Then that curious reference to La Royne Ergaste and the little incident touching her daughter's marriage to D'Angoulême. Then follows the Queen's death, brought about by a jury, a novelty imported from England by the innovators of that period; crowned by cruelty to the Dauphin. There follows a more or less curious sixaine, conveying the fate of Madame Elizabeth, the King's sister; till we close with a brilliant quatrain that exhibits, in a symbolical fashion, the Napoleonic
interregnum, when the severed Bourbon race puts out again its last two crowns, above the Eagle-law or Alquiloye,--probably the last appearance it will ever make upon the stage of history. I think we may agree, that it would not be easy to parallel such a series of verified forecasts relating to the most striking historical incidents, that bear upon a single reign, from any one book existing in the world.
211:1 Par = per, Latin, by reason of.
211:2 A variant is trombe. We are told that the modern commentators find in this word the anagram of Rome, by syncope of t and b. So you might in rompu, by substitution of e for p and the ellision of u. But as no good comes of doing either, I should suggest to leave them alone.
217:1 Le part is the same word as in the last quatrain, and stands here for the husband.
217:2 Solus, Latin for seul.
217:3 Mary, or marri, is from the old word Marrir, s'affliger, and means afflicted, full of grief.
217:4 Trahyr. Trahitor, trahiter, from Latin traditor = traitre, English traitor.
217:5 Coutaux M. Le Pelletier takes as soldiers. Par coutaux = per custodes. They betrayed him into the hands of guards. I think it may also mean coustiller, a soldier armed with the coustille, a short, straight cutlass.
217:6 Avons = avus, grandfather.
226:1 A variant reads pour.
226:2 Construe Trop de bon temps.
226:3 Legier, for légèrement. Romance language.
226:4 Par, for Latin per, because of.
228:1 Tantum, Latin, very.
228:2 Venustus, Latin, comely.
228:3 Faict, Latin, factus made.
228:4 Face, Latin, fax torch.
228:5 Aduste, Latin, adustus burnt.
228:6 Chef, head.
229:1 Le corps et la tête placés dans un panier d'osier sont à l'instant même portés an cimetière de la Madelaine, jetés aussitôt dans une fosse profonde de douze pieds, ouverte de six, garnie et reconvene de chaux vive, et dissous immédiatement. On l'inhume auprès des personnes qui avaient péri le 20 mai, 1770, jour de la fête donnée par la ville de Paris, à l'occasion de son mariage, et auprès des Suisses morts dans la journée du 10 août."
230:1 Ergaste is estrange in Pierre Rigaud's edition. Ἐργαστήρ is a workman, and M. le Pelletier says Ergaster is Latin. It may be, but I do not find it in Facciolati, though ergastulum, a workhouse, is there given. When Marie Antoinette was in the Temple, she was reduced to working with her hands, like a workwoman (ergaste). But ergaste is the anagram of estrange, the one letter n excepted. Probably estrange is the preferable reading, inasmuch as Marie Antoinette was an Austrian, and so étrangère.
231:1 Prins, Latin, prensus, taken, captive.
231:2 Pellix, Latin, pellex, prostitute.
234:1 Qui = Latin cui, to which.
234:2 Alquiloye = Aquilæ lex, law or rule of the Imperial Eagle.